Women, The Vote and Equality

A brief history of New Zealand women.

New Zealand women were the first in the world to win the right to vote in national elections. After years of campagining led by Kate Sheppard and others, the main woman’s suffrage petition was submitted to Parliament on 28 July 1893. Legislation allowing women to vote was signed-off on 19 September 1893, and the first women went to the polls on 28 November, 1893.

But despite significant progress over the past 120 years, women remain under-represented on boards and at parliament, earn less than men for similar work, and violence against females remains a serious problem.

Here is a selection of historical interviews, features and documentaries about women, the vote and equality over the decades.

National Council of Women Christchurch px
National Council of Women, Christchurch, 1896. Ref: 1/2-041798-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/22694035
From left, standing: Mrs A Ansell (Dunedin), Mrs Henry Smith (Christchurch), Miss A E Hookham (Christchurch), Mrs G Ross (Christchurch), Miss Jessie Mackay (Christchurch), Mrs Isherwood (Christchurch), Mrs Black (Christchurch), Mrs Widdowson (Christchurch), Miss F Garstin (Christchurch), Mrs Wallis (Christchurch), Mrs Darling (Christchurch), Mrs J M Williamson (Wanganui), Mrs Wilson (Christchurch). Seated: Mrs G J Smith (Christchurch), Mrs A Daldy (Auckland), Mrs Hatton (Dunedin; Vice-president), Lady Anna Stout (Wellington, Vice-president), Mrs Kate Sheppard (Christchurch; president), Mrs A J Schnackenberg (Auckland; Vice-president), Mrs W Sievwight (Gisborne), Mrs M A Tasker (Wellington), Mrs D Izett (Christchurch, secretary). Seated on floor: Mrs C M Alley (Malvern), Mrs A Wells (Christchurch), Miss Bain (Christchurch). Photographer unidentified.

Collection items

A woman about to cast her first electoral vote National Library sq crop
Woman about to cast her electoral vote for the first time. 1935.
Image courtesy National Library Ref: 1/2-C-016179-F

About this collection

A brief history of the participation of women in New Zealand society, focusing on women’s rights, the battle for the vote, and gender equality.

Sound Archives interim logo black
Archival audio supplied by  Sound Archives Ngā Taonga Kōrero. To request a copy of the recording, please contact SANTK.


Womans suffrage petition from Archives NZ cropped
Image shared by Archives NZ.